Screenshot 2021 07 15 At 8.45.23 Pm
Image: Valve

Valve has just announced the Steam Deck, a Switch-style handheld system that offers portable access to the company's massive Steam digital marketplace.

Boasting a 7-inch, 1280x800 touchscreen and dedicated gaming controls (including two trackpads and eight triggers on the rear), the SteamOS-based handheld will connect to your Steam account and run PC titles. It's powered by an AMD-made "accelerated processing unit" while the CPU is based on AMD's Zen 2 microarchitecture, topping out at 3.5 GHz.

The GPU is comprised of eight RDNA 2 compute units each running at up to 1.6 GHz, which yields a max performance of 1.6 teraflops. 16 GB of RAM keeps things ticking along, while a microSD slot allows users to boost the built-in storage (more on that shortly).

Interestingly, three models will be available, although Valve is keen to stress that there are no performance differences between them — the big difference is the capacity and speed of the flash memory included in each one. Each model has a battery that is rated for between two to eight hours of use, depending on the game being played.

The models are as follows:

  • $399 / £349 - 64 GB of storage in the eMMC format
  • $529 / £459 - 256 GB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD, and “exclusive Steam Community profile bundle"
  • $649 / £569 - 512 GB NVMe SSD as well as “premium anti-glare etched glass” and a carry case

While the Steam Deck doesn't have the detachable controllers seen on the Switch, it does have an optional dock that allows you to connect the device to an external display. Three USB ports are included on the dock (x1 USB 3.1, x2 USB 2.0) while DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0 output is supported. There's also an Ethernet jack. 4K output at 120 Hz or 8K at 60 Hz is possible when using the dock.

Steam users will be able to reserve a Steam Deck – for a $5 fee – from 1PM EDT on Friday, July 16th — provided they have made a purchase on the Steam Store at some point prior to June 2021 (they'll have to wait until 48 hours later if not).

Here's how the Switch OLED and Steam Deck stack up in terms of specs:

Switch OLED Valve Steam Deck
Display 7-Inch 1280x720 OLED touchscreen 7-inch 1280x800 (16:10), 60Hz LCD touchscreen
CPU NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor (Tegra X1 'Mariko') AMD Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz
GPU NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor (Tegra X1 'Mariko') 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz
Storage 64 GB, expandable with MicroSD cards 64GB / 256GB / 512GB, depending on version. Expandable with MicroSD cards
Audio Stereo speakers, 3.5mm stereo jack Stereo speakers, 3.5mm stereo jack, dual mics, multichannel USB-C/Bluetooth output
Battery 4310mAh (approximately 4.5-9 hours) 40Whr (2-8 hours)
Wireless connectivity WI-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac compliant) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Wired connectivity USB-C USB-C with DisplayPort 1.4 Alt-mode support; up to 8K @60Hz or 4K @120Hz, USB 3.2 Gen 2
Dock HDMI out, x2 USB-A ports, wired LAN port x3 USB-A, wired LAN port, USB-C, HDMI out (third party powered USB-C hubs also supported)
Dimensions 239mm x 102mm x 28.7mm 298mm x 117mm x 49mm
Weight Approximately 0.93 lbs (421 grams) with Joy-Con controllers attached (0.71 lbs / 322 grams without) Approximately 1.47 lbs (669 grams)
Cost $349.99 / £309.99 $399 / £349 (64 GB)
$529 / £459 - (256 GB)

$649 / £569 - (512 GB)

Given that the base unit is available for just a little more than a Switch OLED Model, it's certainly tempting to consider the Steam Deck a legitimate rival – even more so when you consider that the two systems will share many of the same games, such as DOOM Eternal, Control, Ghostrunner and many, many more. However, Nintendo's first-party output has arguably been a key factor in the Switch's success, and the Steam Deck won't be able to call upon that. Switch is also positioned as a family-friendly device, and it's tricky to see Valve hitting quite the same audience with this product.

Still, it just goes to show what's possible in this form factor for under $400, which, you could argue, puts additional pressure on Nintendo to produce something truly special for any future Switch hardware revision – be that the Switch Pro or Switch 2.

Interestingly, former Nintendo producer Erik Peterson – now working in business development at Valve – is the one showing off this new piece of kit. “It is a PC; you can install whatever you want on it,” he says, hinting at the massive potential of such a platform. Will this potential lead to Switch-size sales? Time will tell.